Photographer’s Q&A – Andy Clark
This week’s Q&A is with Vancouver-based photographer Andy Clark, a Reuters staff photographer for the past 24 years. His web site is clarkfoto.ca.
Here is a good example of looking over ones shoulder. While covering rowing at the 1996 Olympics, I looked back while waiting for the next race and there was the USA 4-man Kayak training. Photo by Andy Clark/Reuters.
What were your first steps in the industry?
I began my career at 18, working as a copyboy for The Canadian Press in the Picture Department. After buying my first 35mm camera (Nikon F), one of the senior darkroom techs, Gem Mitchell, guided me through learning the basics such as how to use the camera properly, develop film and make prints. From there on, I am self-taught.
When you were just starting out in the industry, what did you want to do and are you where you thought you would be now?
I come from a newspaper family going back at least three generations, all writers & editors and therefore my destiny appeared to be the printed word. I had a slight interest in photography but no aspirations of making a career of it. As a copyboy at CP, once I saw what photojournalism was all about and began learning the magic of the darkroom I was hooked, my future decided and written in stone, as it were.
My hopes and dreams when I began were to become a staff photog for Life magazine. Alas that was not to be since the magazine folded a year or two after I started photography.
For as long as I remember, my parents subscribed to Life magazine and from an age of about 10 I looked at it just about every week when it arrived in the mail. Once I started learning photography, I thought it would be fantastic to work at Life, if ever the chance came my way.
When Life Mag briefly resurrected in 1990, a very small spark of hope returned. I did manage to get a double-truck photo in one of their editions before it returned to antiquity a couple of years later. So I guess in one brief moment, I reached a small portion of my goal.
On the other hand, being a wire photographer for just about all my career has been a marvelous experience and adventure, with still more to come. So no complaints from me.
Fredericton, NB – Then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney stops off to have lunch in a dinner…..1986. Photo by Andy Clark/Reuters
Do you have a mentor?
No, I don’t have a mentor these days, roles have somewhat changed and I am the mentor when asked. Bob Carroll was my mentor way back in the United Press days. He hired this 20-something kid and from there, he molded, scolded and otherwise guided me onto the course I continue today.
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
Photographers that inspired me are Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ernst Haas.
What was a pivotal point in your career?
The pivotal moment for me was becoming a full-time photographer. After two years as a copyboy and three years as a darkroom tech, learning news photography from the ground up, I was promoted to full-time photographer at The Canadian Press.
Ste. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec – People tug on the robes of Pope John Paul II while he moved through the crowd greeting everybody on his second day of a Canadian tour. Photo by Andy Clark/Reuters.
What are you working on now?
Working at and where I have been for the last 24 years at Reuters, currently based in Vancouver.
How important to you is multimedia?
Multimedia plays a very small role in my work. I have put together several still photo and music pieces that I use for my many talks each year to young photographers. But I have no interest in video whatsoever. We all know the power of the still image over the moving image so why dilute a multimedia piece with video.
Though I have seen many photographers produce some nice work in this area, I look at it as fast food. You eat it and enjoy it at the time and then it’s forgotten till the next time you’re hungry and then, you go looking for more and the cycle continues. The still image, when viewed and enjoyed, lingers in the mind.
I am obviously no expert but I have always believed the human brain visualizes in single moments or snapshots. So when you think back to a movie you saw or nicely produced video piece you remember it is in “still” images. I will therefore continue in what I know best …. the photograph.
How do you ensure you are progressing as a photojournalist?
I ensure my progression by constantly shooting pictures. At times, I shoot as much in my spare time as when working. I always have a camera with me and often use it on my off days on anything that catches my eye.
Care givers pray over Arlindo Tivcne, who was dying of AIDS…in a small village in Northern Mozambique. Photo by Andy Clark/Reuters.
What is your favourite way to unwind?
One of my favourites is to play online gaming with a PS3 or Xbox. I find it relaxing and it quickly takes your mind off what might have been a hectic day. I also believe that playing such games keeps the hand and eye co-ordination fine tuned. Using the handset on my PS3 is very similar to using a camera. Pushing buttons and toggles and reacting in split seconds to what your eye sees on the screen translates directly what one does on a camera and reacting while looking through the viewfinder.
Another way I unwind, believe it or not, is to sit down a review my work for the day. Make sure I picked the best images and many times re-do some of the images in Black & White, my preferred format for the photograph.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
One the best pieces of advice I ever received, (and I can’t remember who mentioned it to me many, many years ago), ….. “Always look behind you, the best image may not be in front”. This has paid off many times when I have heeded that advice, looked back over my shoulder and got a better photo.
Seattle, Washington, November 30 1999 – Police fire tear gas and rubber pellets at protesters while trying to clear a road outside the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle. Demonstrators attempted to block roads and access to the conference. Photo by Andy Clark/Reuters.